COVID-19: The week in review (December 14 -18)

The latest coronavirus updates from across the province
By TVO.org staff - Published on Dec 18, 2020

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This article was last updated on Friday at 4:19 p.m.

TVO.org reporters and editors are tracking stories about the coronavirus pandemic in all regions of the province. Here's what Ontarians need to know. 

Provincewide

  • Per Friday's government report, there are 2,290 new cases in Ontario, for a total of 151,257 since the pandemic began; 877 people are in hospital, 261 of them in intensive care and 168 on ventilators. To date, 4,098 people have died. 
  • According to data from the Ministry of Long-Term Care, there are 139 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, 757 confirmed active cases of positive residents, and 843 confirmed active cases of positive staff. To date, there have been 2,471 confirmed resident deaths and eight confirmed staff deaths.

  • As of December 18, in publicly funded schools, there are 111 new school-related student cases (for a total of 4,996), 22 new school-related staff cases (for a total of 1,060), and no new case in "individuals not identified" (for a total of 1,095); 957 schools have a reported case, and 22 are currently closed.

  • On Thursday, the Ontario government announced that it will provide $77 million to help people who were laid off due to the impact of COVID-19 find in-demand jobs in their local communities. According to a press release, the funding will be provided through the redesigned second career grant program and will help more than 2,750 job seekers with up to $28,000 for tuition, training materials and living expenses.

  •  The Ontario government announced measures to support the hospitality industry and other hard-hit industries during the pandemic on Thursday. This includes an extension of the regulatory changes brought forward under the Employment Standards Act to July 3, 2021 and the introduction of special industry regulation allowing employers to negotiate alternative arrangements with unions for putting termination and severance pay into trust for laid-off employees. 

  • On Thursday, the Ontario government announced that it is providing over $147 million to expand access to the provincial mental health and addictions system and address capacity issues in response to COVID-19. "We are supporting our most vulnerable populations, while expanding community-based and virtual and online services to close gaps in care and ensure the right mental health and addictions supports are widely available," said Christine Elliott, deputy premier and minister of health, in a statement

  • On December 15, the Ontario government announced that it is allocating an additional $120 million to help municipalities and Indigenous community partners protect the health and safety of vulnerable people during COVID-19. According a press release, the funding is part of the Social Services Relief Fund, which provides up to $4 billion to Ontario municipalities under the federal-provincial Safe Restart Agreement.

  • On Monday, Ontario's Ministry of Long-Term Care announced that UniversalCare Canada Inc. will temporarily take over the management of Westside, a long-term care home in Etobicoke. According to CTV news, this is the first time the Ontario government has tapped a private company to take over management of a long-term care home grappling with a COVID-19 outbreak.

  • On December 14, Anita Quidangen, a personal support worker from the Rekai Centre at Sherbourne Place, a long-term-care home in Toronto, became the first person in Ontario and Canada to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. In a statement released by the government, Premier Doug Ford says that 2,500 health care workers in Ontario's hospitals and long-term-care homes will be vaccinated over the coming days and weeks, with more people to follow as additional shipments arrive.

  • On Thursday, after Ontario reported more than 2,400 new cases of COVID-19, the highest number of cases recorded in a single day since the start of the pandemic, the Ontario Hospital Association released a statement asking the government to implement and enforce a four-week lockdown in every public health unit with an infection rate of 40/100,000 population or higher. “We are now in the holiday season and if members of the public choose to ignore public health measures and gather outside their households, the consequences risk overwhelming Ontario’s hospitals. Every health care system has its breaking point,” read the statement. 

Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area

  • According to data as of December 18, there are 758 new cases in Toronto, for a total of 51,495 since the pandemic began; 268 of them are in hospital. In total, 1,770 people have died.
  • On Monday, the city of Missausaga announced that it had issued over 30 tickets to businesses and individuals for breaking COVID-19 lockdown restrictions over the weekend. According to a statement from the city, four tickets were issued to non-essential businesses and the remaining 33 tickets were issued to individuals at private gatherings at four separate locations. Under Grey/Lockdown, no indoor gatherings are permitted unless with members of the same household, restaurants may only serve takeout, and non-essential retail can only have curbside pickup or delivery services.
  • Officials are once again warning Hamilton that a lockdown could be imminent, after public health reported a daily record of 162 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday. As the Hamilton Spectator reports, this came the same day the Ontario Nurses Association called conditions in the Grace Villa long-term care home — the site of Hamilton's largest outbreak — "horrendous" when its staff were first deployed there to help. Public health has issued infection control orders to six long-term care homes, five of which still have outbreaks.
  • After 680 News reported on a memo showing Hamilton's Lime Ridge Mall (owned by Cadillac Fairview) would extend its hours to manage traffic from GTA shoppers starting Tuesday, community members and city officials criticized the shopping centre. Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger said the decision could encourage non-essential shopping, but added that locals socializing are the real driver of spread in Hamilton, not out-of-town shoppers.
  • Hamilton public health says it will no longer share details about COVID-19 deaths with the public, due an increase in cases and staff workloads. Hamilton will still report that information (including details such as age for the victim and location of death) to the province, but Ontario keeps that private. As CHCH reports, experts say more information about deaths is needed for the public to take the threat seriously, not less.
  • During Ontario's enforcement blitz of COVID-19 business regulations, more than one in four Hamilton businesses visited were accused of rule-breaking, the Spectator reports. Inspectors reported contraventions at 147 of the 544 businesses and ultimately issued seven tickers to five establishments. They also issued 14 orders under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and 25 formal warnings.
  • The St. Catharines Standard is reporting community spread and close contact at gatherings, such as parties and lunch breaks at work, are to blame for Niagara's rising COVID-19 infection rate. Acting medical officer of health Dr. Mustafa Hirji told the paper that people have spread the virus at social gatherings, and taken it to long-term care homes, exposing vulnerable people. Once again, Hirji warned that contact tracing, a crucial way to track and limit viral spread, is harder now there are so many more cases.The Standard reported earlier this week that Niagara seems close to the red zone of the province's pandemic control plan.
  • After pandemic restrictions closed ice rinks, a Toronto man continued his annual fundraising free skate in Niagara-on-the-Lake this year in an attempt to raise funds for the Alzheimer's Society of Canada and awareness about the difficult work caregivers do. CHCH reports every Dec. 15 since 2012, Steve McNeil skates for 19 hours and 26 minutes in recognition of 1926, the year his mother was born.

Indigenous

  • As of December 16, Indigenous Services Canada is aware of 2,490 active cases of COVID-19 in First Nation communities across Canada. They are also reporting 59 COVID-19 related deaths in total, across all First Nation reserves in Canada. To date, Ontario First Nation communities have had a total of 209 COVID-19 cases.
Indigenous Services Canada
(Indigenous Services Canada)
  • The Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians shared their weekly COVID-19 update, on December 17, including a report of the First Nation communities they are aware of that have active COVID-19 cases, which includes: Akwesasne, Deer Lake, Fort William, Attawapiskat, Lac Seul, North Caribou Lake, Cat Lake.
  • On December 15, Deputy Grand Chief Jason Smallboy, of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, provided a COVID-19 update on Wawatay Radio.

Northern

  • North Bay Parry Sound Health Unit reports a potential exposure at a North Bay private school. "Due to privacy associated with the small population at the private school, the Health Unit will not be identifying the school," says the release. The health unit has contacted those with high-risk exposures.
  • There were eight new cases and five cases resolved in Greater Sudbury and the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts in the past week, according to Public Health Sudbury and Districts. As of December 16, there are 11 active cases in the health unit's area.
  • According to the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority (WAHA), there are three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Moose Factory.
  • According to the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority (WAHA), all positive cases of COVID-19 have been resolved in Attawapiskat
  • Five more residents at Southbridge Roseview Manor in Thunder Bay have died of COVID-10, bringing the total number of residents who’ve died to 12. As of Friday morning, the long-term-care home is reporting 20 active COVID-19 cases, including 10 residents and 10 staff members.
  • As of Friday morning, the Thunder Bay District Health Unit is reporting 101 active COVID-19 cases. The health unit is encouraging residents to avoid non-essential travel this holiday season.
  • The Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre has announced it will distribute Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.
  • The Northwestern Health Unit is reporting four active COVID-19 cases.

    Eastern

    • The Kingstonist.com is reporting that 80 prisoners and four staff members at Joyceville Institution, a federal prison near Kingston, have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Thursday. The Correctional Service of Canada suspended all in-person visits to its Ontario institutions a day earlier.
    • Three employees between two Peterborough Walmart locations have tested positive for COVID-19, while they were at work. The employees tested positive on December 5 and 7, reports the Peterborough Examiner.
    • Ottawa becomes the third city in the province to create an isolation centre out of a hotel, the Ottawa Citizen reports. “This is going to be a welcoming, secure temporary home for people to self-isolate, especially those who cannot do so safely in their own home,” said Dr. Vera Etches, the medical officer of health for Ottawa Public Health.
    • Police in Gananoque moving toward an “enforcement approach” under the Reopening Ontario Act, as the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit reported an active case count of 64, as of Monday, reports the Recorder. Enforcement will be done by by-law officers and the health unit, police said.
    • There may be a run on Christmas trees this year, Bancroft This Week reports. It takes an average of 12 years to grow a tree, yet the global recession in 2008 led to fewer trees being planted and consequently, a shortage for 2020. One local grower said that he’s selling more small trees this year, which he thinks is because many seniors are not joining their families and find a large tree hard to handle.

    Southwestern

    • A recent Chatham-Kent Public Health telephone survey of 540 people suggests only a little over half of respondents plan to get the COVID-19 vaccine and even fewer plan to get the flu vaccine this year.
    • Taras Natyshak, NDP ethics and accountability critic and Essex MPP, tells Blackburn News that he's concerned that Revera, a private long-term-care provider, is transferring licences for facilities in Chatham-Kent and elsewhere to subsidiaries to avoid widespread litigation for the treatment of residents and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic. A spokesperson for the company tells Blackburn News that the transfers were started well over a year ago and don't have anything to do with the pandemic.
    • The status of several regions in southwestern Ontario would be affected, including London and Middlesex, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph and the Waterloo Region, if the Ontario provincial government follows recommendations released Thursday from the Ontario Hospital Association to immediately impose a four-week lockdown in areas where COVID-19 infection rates are 40/100,000 population or higher. The Windsor-Essex region moved to lockdown status on December 14.
    • An ice-cream processor in Markdale has bought two subzero freezers to store COVID-19 vaccines intended for area residents, Blackburn News reports.
    • A visit from Santa to a long-term-care facility in Amherstburg was more naughty than nice when the staff member dressed up as the holiday character failed to wear a face mask. A spokesperson for Schlegel Villages, which owns the facility, says the employee was tested after the event and found to be negative for COVID-19, Blackburn News reports. The employee will also face disciplinary measures, the company says.
    • Windsor Regional Hospital has announced the introduction of rapid testing for COVID-19 that will allow the hospital obtain results within an hour. The hospital says in a news release, however, that supplies of the test are limited to 200 a week (the hospital tests up to 750 people a day at its assessment centres), so will be used to monitor patients in hospital.
    • Cargill's beef processing plant in Guelph has announced it will temporarily close after 87 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed at the facility, CBC reports. The plant is Ontario's largest beef processor.
    • COVID-19 outbreaks at London Health Sciences' Victoria campus as well as an anticipated spike in COVID-19 patients has led the hospital to move patients to other hospitals in the region, the London Free Press resports.
    • Hospitals in Tillsonburg and Ingersoll in Oxford County have banned visitors to their facilities as cases of COVID-19 in the area continue to climb, the Woodstock Sentinel-Review reports.
    • Schools in the Waterloo Region have reported more than 225 cases of COVID-19 over the past two months, the Record reports.

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